Old Black Witch (and Blueberry Pancakes)

By Wende Devlin and Harry Devlin

You know, I logged on to WordPress tonight to rave about the pancakes we made from the Old Black Witch book, but because I’m a stats whore I had to analyze my stats page first. Someone linked to me today from a blog I’ve never encountered before, and of course I had to find out why. You may have noticed that WordPress has partnered with SkyNet to make recommendations for other blog posts you might enjoy reading based on tags and key words (I guess). Well, a few weeks ago you may have read my riveting post about the Naked Scientists and Naked Archaeology podcasts; perhaps you have even since subscribed to them on iTunes. Perhaps when you came to the end of the review you were shown a link to a post on a blog called Hootchi Cootchi, which discusses the science, the social, and everything in between (of sex, in case you were wondering). Perhaps that link took you to the June 25, 2009 post that showed you full frontal of a very young, very uncut Tony Danza. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting to see when I was offered the link to “Tony Danza! Naked!” but that’s what I got. He was a real cutie-pie. I didn’t realize. I mean from the waist up, of course. I figured out early on that he had a penis. I didn’t appreciate his adorableness during his sitcom heyday.

But enough about that. I’m here to talk about Old Black Witch, book I remember reading from my childhood and which has been a source of inspiration for me more than once. A few years ago, when I went to Quilt Camp with my mother…

Vina de Lestonnac Retreat Center

Vina de Lestonnac Retreat Center

…I brought with me the materials to make a Halloween quilt based on one that Old Black Witch had on her bed:

Old Black Witchs Quilt

Old Black Witchs Quilt

It turned out great!

Halloween Quilt 2006

Halloween Quilt 2006

Quilt Detail

Quilt Detail

In fact, looking at this quilt now (it’s been put away for the summer because it is big and heavy and hot) is making me realize how long it’s been since I’ve made a quilt and how nicely they always turn out. I really need to make another one. I have no idea what, though. Maybe some kind of little one for the kids’ bathroom that still needs to be painted. I’ve got a kind of beach thing started in there; I’ve always liked this quilt I saw this one time made of equilateral triangles that did fish forms in tessalation–that would be cool. But I digress. Here’s a graceless segue: The Devlins must have had a thing about quilts, because the other book of theirs that I had growing up and still have now, How Fletcher Was Hatched, also has a lovely depiction of a quilt in it. Maybe that one could be my inspiration. Nah. I’m sort of stuck on this tessalated fish now. Imagine the beautiful fabrics you could use! All I need now is a block pattern. Surely someone has put one online somewhere.

Edited to add a diagram of the quilt block for LittleMeg72, who wondered:

Squares are 4 1/2 inches cut, 4 inches assembled.

Squares are 4 1/2 inches cut, 4 inches assembled, for a 12 1/2 inches block cut, 12 inches assembled.

But quilts are BFD, high-effort productions of operatic proportions, and you can’t be copying patterns from every page in the book. So you know what we did today? We made blueberry pancakes following the recipe on the back of the book. Yep, the book is about an old, black, witch who ends up having a tea room move into her house, and ends up having a nice touch for pancakes. (She also hexes and then enslaves some attempting robbers, but not until the very end.) I feel like my whole childhood I wanted to make these blueberry pancakes following the recipe on the back of the book, but my whole childhood I have lacked things like access to blueberries, permission to cook at the hot stove, and follow-through. I dunno. Maybe we ate these pancakes every third Saturday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I don’t remember it. Pancakes aren’t even my favorite food, yet when we were at the Costco the other day staring into the refrigerated case that contains all those cartons of blueberries, the recipe popped into my head. Husband went to work late today, so we whipped up these pancakes for breakfast. We even said the magic words.

Rather than take a poorly focused picture of a grimy book cover, I’ll just type out the recipe here:

Bewitching Blueberry Pancakes

1 1/4 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspooons baking powder
3 Tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
3 Tablespoons melted fat or oil
1/2 cup washed blueberries

As you stir in the blueberries (this is the magic part) say three times:

Gobble dee gook
With a wooden spoon,
The laugh of a toad
At the height of the moon!

Pour on a hot griddle and watch.

You can make things disappear just like Old Black Witch. Put three pancakes in front of any hungry boy or girl and watch them go.

I’m serious, people. These pancakes are excellent. I was surprised by how many people have already reviewed them online, people who have probably cooked better and more often than me. If those people like them, then you can be sure I’m not promoting some false positive. We doubled the batch, which was wise. our pancakes came out pretty thick, and because I had real butter and real maple syrup in the house, we had ourselves a splurge. I can’t remember the last time I baked blueberries into anything. I’d forgotten how wonderful they taste all soft and cooked-like. I also learned how easily they stain clothes, and legs, and fingernails when Filly found the leftover pancakes on the countertop and helped herself to all the bits with blueberries in them. Girl’s got a good palate–no arguing with that.

I will definitely be making these again.

EDITED October 16, 2009:
I’ve been thinking about the Devlin quilt all night, and went looking in my other book to see that one. Below is a page from How Fletcher Was Hatched, that has a picture of what the authors call “Alexandra’s Red Quilt.” Somewhere I know we have their book Cranberry Thanksgiving, but it isn’t revealing itself to me. I am dying to look inside and see if there is another quilt, too. I’ve also learned today that the Devlin’s wrote and illustrated a book about the Knobby Boys or the Knobby Brothers that I’m going to look for in the library, just to peek. Finally, I learned that the Devlin’s seem to have made a whole series of books about the man with the bristly beard in Cranberry Thanksgiving. So much to know!

"Alexandra's Red Quilt"

"Alexandras Red Quilt"

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  • Suzanne  On July 19, 2009 at 10:22 am

    You can rest assurred…… I never made them!


  • secondlastwish  On August 9, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Hello! I’m glad you enjoyed the naked Tony Danza – I didn’t realize he could pop up all over other wordpress blogs since we’re considered an adult content blog. So I’m thankful it didn’t offend your sensibilities as it might some (he is cute though isn’t he?).

    Those pancakes look delicious and my partner will love them – thank you for sharing the recipe.

    Secondlastwish(co-author of Hootchi Cootchi)

  • littlemeg72  On October 15, 2009 at 4:43 am

    Good Morning, I remember this book, I read it to my boys some 25 years ago. I love the quilt and I am a quilter and would love to get a copy/directions to make this quilt. Can you help me. Thank You for your help. Margie

  • Karen  On October 15, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Hi, Margie! I am so glad that you liked my quilt. I don’t really have a pattern for it because I was just copying the book, but I did make up a picture of the main block. It’s 3 x 3, with 4 inch squares (well, 4 1/2 inch squares cut). I added a diagram of the block to the end of the post. If you look at the picture, down the right side is a column with spaced triangle blocks, and another one across the bottom just to put a buffer between the center four-patches and the green border. Around the whole set of blocks is a 1 inch border (1 1/2 inch cut) in the light/background fabric. The green border is also 1 inch (1 1/2), and the dark final border is maybe 3 inches (3 1/2 inches cut)–I am looking at it from across the room and guessing. The quilt is bigger than I thought it would be, and I actually pulled a whole row of blocks out and turned those into a pillow cover.

    So, kids, knock yourself out!

  • littlemeg72  On October 16, 2009 at 3:02 am

    Hi Karen, What a surprise to see a response so early. Yes your diagram will help. I do have some Halloween fabics but need some bright greens. Will be shopping in Lancaster, Pa. this coming Wednesday.

    I just won an auction on Ebay and my copy of “Old Black Witch” is on the way. Can’t wait. I never noticed the quilt on her bed, maybe because I wasn’t a quilter then. I started quilting when my boys were in High School. When this quilt is finished I will send you a picture. Again Thank you so much. Margie From Central Pa.

  • Suzanne  On October 16, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Marge, ……. Karen, you already know this

    I just got home to San Diego from PA on Sat.
    we were near Lancaster, but didn’t have time to hit quilt stores this time. Have you ever been to the Lancaster quilt show? I didn’t really start quilting until my kids were in High School either. I’m happy that Karen didn’t wait that long!


  • Margie  On October 21, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Hi Suzanne, Yes, I have been to the Lancaster Quilt Show every Spring for 5 years now. Love it. Just got home about hour ago from Lancaster and I am beat. Had a great time, spent alot of money and got alot of great fabrics. The weather was perfect, it was in the 70’s. Nice since we had snow this pass weekend.
    By the way we lived in San Diego when my husband was in the Navy, some 30 years ago. I go back about every summer to visit with friends. Love it there. Happy Quilting, Margie

  • Suzanne  On October 23, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Hmmmm, Are any of your friends quilters? Perhaps they’re in a quilt guild I used to be in? Now WHAT a coincidence it would be if we knew each other!

  • B Welsh  On February 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I bought this book for my daughter twelve years ago. However we had a house fire and the book was lost. We use to make these pancakes every Saturday. I rented the book at the library but someone had ripped out the recipe. Thank you so much for posting it on your site.

  • Karen  On February 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    I am so happy that I could be of help. Enjoy breakfast!

  • Annie Logue (@annielogue)  On October 21, 2011 at 6:19 am

    I found this via Google. I loved that book! It was my favorite as a kid, and the pancakes are really good. I make quilts sometimes, so now I’ll have to try to make one like the witch’s. Thanks for this!

  • rosana  On February 2, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Thank you for sharing the recipe from Old Black Witch. My family gave the book away and I’ve been craving those pancakes ever since. They simply are by far the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted! Now, on to breakfast….

  • dorinda  On October 31, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    I too had this book growing up…….my mother ordered this and other books from a book club…….books like “Harvey’s Hideout” ……and “Miss Suzy”……..i would love to have them all again…….would u have any info on this….please and thank you……

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